If you’re traveling for the first time, there is no doubt you have a lot of questions. Wondering how it’s going to be like, what you need to know, how to behave and generally what to expect on your trip.

I’ve been there, in fact, everyone has been there! And having made my share of mistakes during my first trip, I feel like I’ve advanced so much as a traveler and I am confident that I can now give travel tips to first-time travelers or at least push them in the right direction by sharing a few things I’ve picked up during my traveling journey.

So in this post, I’ll be sharing with you some of the useful tips for first-time travelers to help you prepare for that amazing trip that you’ve been planning for a while.

Essential tips for traveling abroad for the first time

Table of Contents

1. Don’t expect things to be like they are at home.

I mean that’s the point of traveling – to discover new places and experience the ways of life in other countries. And if every place was just like your native country, there wouldn’t be any point in traveling.

2. Be open to learning new things

One of the advantages of traveling is that it widens our world plus our thinking horizon. So be open to learning new things especially if you don’t have them back home.

Whether it is learning a new language, picking up a new hobby, be ready to learn something new along your traveling journey.

tips for first time traveling abroad

3. Don’t judge but rather try to understand things/situations you might come across.

Since obviously the way of life might be different or certain things done differently in the place you’re traveling to, don’t be a “jerk” that looks down on people because they live differently.

Instead, try to understand why things are done that way and then you can choose to adapt to them or simply just ignore them. I mean not everything is for everyone.

4. Try to learn the basic words/ language of the country you’re traveling to.

Learning a few basic words of the local language of the country you’re traveling to will go a long way. In my experience, locals will always be more friendly and helpful if you speak a few words of their language.

No, you don’t need to speak it fluently but your efforts to compose a sentence won’t go unnoticed.

Before you go for that international trip, make sure that you’ve done all these things here.

5. Manners and respect are required everywhere- don’t forget them.

This is like an international trait and there is nowhere in the world where it is ok to disrespects people. So if you’re traveling, do not forget your manners whatsoever.

And remember, people, are more likely to treat you the way you treat them. So if you try to be rude or disrespectful, no one will want to associate with you.

6. Be flexible

As a traveler, you need to learn to be flexible. Things are gonna go wrong somehow, plans are gonna get changed, the weather is gonna change (sometimes abruptly). but regardless of what happens, always be willing to change plans.

If you had planned an outdoor adventure and it rains, do not keep sobbing the entire day – instead, find something else that can be done indoors.

7. Respect the local culture

I am sure you wouldn’t be happy if a tourist came to your home country and started disrespecting your culture. So be more welcoming and instead of disrespecting the native culture, try to immerse yourself into it – or better yet, try learning about it deeper.

first time travel tips

8. Interact with the locals

There is no better way of learning about a new country than interacting with the locals. This is also the best way to discover the hidden gems of the place since in most cases not so many tourists talk about them and they’re also rarely in guide books. 

Literally just interacting with the locals will give you a better understanding of the country in terms of getting recommendations and understanding their way of life better.

9. Buy travel insurance

Travel insurance is one of the most important travel essentials you need to have as a first-time traveler. Anything can go wrong while on the road, from losing your stuff to falling sick.

If you don’t have travel insurance, it might be hard to get medical care in a foreign country and this is where travel insurance comes in to save the day. 

Though it might seem like its just “expensive for nothing”, it might be the only thing that saves you that $1000 camera.  Actually it is said that, If you can’t afford travel insurance, you certainly can’t afford to travel.

The Travel Insurance I recommend for all kinds of travelers (except those above 75 years) is World Nomads. It’s easy to request a quote online and it works in over 160 countries worldwide.

10. Protect your passport like your life depends on it (because it does, in a way).

As a foreigner in a new country, your “life” and security literally depend on your passport. So keep it as safe as possible.

You can buy this Travel neck Pouch/ passport holder to keep it safe when you’re traveling with it or a Pacsafe to lock it away together with your other valuables when leaving it back at your hotel.

Ps: Many blogs advise travelers to always walk with their passports, but in my opinion, this is wrong. The chances of you losing it when on your daily adventures is high. So I say, carry your passport only and only when you need to use it. But for security reasons, make a photocopy of it which you can take with you everywhere.

11. Be ready for the culture shock

Whether you travel to Africa, Asia or Europe, you’re bound to find cultures that are totally opposite of what you’re used to back home. So as a first-time traveler, be ready to see things out of “your norm” and try as much as possible to embrace them.

traveling for the first time

12. Always trust your instincts

One of the things that has saved many people whether traveling or not is trusting their gut. If something feels wrong to you, trust your instincts and move away from it.

Traveling is no different, you’ll be faced with a number of situations and they’re sometimes not black and white. So, if you’re not sure of what to do, just calm down, listen to your inner self and go with it! (Well unless you’re absolutely sure that your instincts are always wrong lol).

13. Eat at places where the locals eat from

The easiest way to find the best and cheap eats is by eating from where the locals eat. This is where my previous point of interacting with the locals comes in since the only way to know where the locals go is by asking them directly.

For whichever kind of food you want to try, ask the locals to lead you to the best cuisines – I mean they know their country more than anyone else.

14. Stay safe at all times

While traveling, do not compromise your safety for adventure. If the streets are not safe to walk in at night, sacrifice going to a club or find a safer way of going there.

If an adventurous activity might be a danger to your life, it’s better to stay safe and alive than ticking it off your bucket list. Remember, this varies from individual to individual, so what might be safe for others might not be for you depending on each one’s health conditions.

You can also check out these travel safety tips to make sure you stay safe throughout your travels.

15. Do not put off the off-the-beaten paths

As first-time travelers, we always want to see the most popular tourist sites in an area. Of course, even if it’s me, I would want to see the Eiffel tower when I visit Paris, but this doesn’t mean that you have to completely write off visiting the hidden gems

I would actually advise you to visit the most popular sites and then embark on the off the beaten path if you still have time but not just leaving the country immediately after seeing the famous places.

first time international travel tips

16. Don’t let your trip get ruined when bad stuff happens or if something goes wrong

Bad things happen, that’s how life is and sometimes we can’t really control them. But when one bad thing happens, do not let it ruin your entire trip that you planned for so long.

Accept the fact that it happened and if you can fix it, do so but if you can’t, dust yourself up and move onto something else. Something like having the time of your life in a new country because you’re never going to have another first time in that particular destination.

17. Don’t take people’s photos without their consent especially if you plan to post them on the internet

One thing I’ve learned is that most people just don’t like their photos taken by strangers at all. I am that kind of person actually. If you want a photo of me, ask nicely and chances are high that I will say yes.

So unless you’re absolutely sure that its ok or it’s just a random photo, try not to take people’s photos without their permission especially if you’re planning on using them on social media.

Traveling has taught me that locals are always nice to tourists, so all it takes is asking nicely and politely and explain a bit as to why you want to take their photos and you’ll be blown away by how many will say yes to you.

18. Travel light but do not leave the essentials behind.

First-time travelers in most cases pack their entire home for a trip that will last a couple of days. I know this because, for my first trip to Egypt, I literally packed things I could use for 2 months for a trip of one week (arrrgg…. talk about being a first-time traveler and a heavy backpacker). But as time went on, I learned how to pack light and it is soo liberating.

So the earlier you start learning the tips of packing light, the better. This post that I wrote when I finally got a gist of traveling light will show you all the tips and tricks to packing light and its advantages.

However, packing light doesn’t mean leaving behind the travel essentials. So below are some of the travel items you should never leave behind when traveling.

A universal travel adapter: Since different countries use different adapters, I’d advise you to buy one universal travel adapter to cater for all regions. You can buy one from here if you don’t have it yet.

– A power Bank: One of the things you should never leave behind while traveling is the Powerbank! Phones have now become a great deal of our lives that we need to use them for so many important things. So take a power bank with you so that you don’t run out of battery. This power bank is small, light and has the capability to charge your phone and other devices multiple times.

– Microfibre travel towel – I always opt for this microfibre travel towel because it is super lightweight, easy to wash and dries easily.

– First Aid kit: Regardless of where you’re traveling to, you’ll need to pack a First Aid kit for emergencies that might arise while traveling. Remember it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Just make sure that the one you pack has all the essentials and that it is small and light enough to fit in any kind of suitcase/ backpack. This first aid kit actually fits all the qualities mentioned above plus it is really cheap for what it offers.

– Collapsible water bottle: I always prefer carrying a water bottle while traveling so that I can just refill it when I run out of water. It also helps to be a responsible traveler since you won’t have to use tones of disposable plastic bottles which are not great for our environment. Any water bottle can work but I prefer this collapsible one as it doesn’t take a lot of space in my bag.

19. Be aware that scams are everywhere and that they can happen at any time but the best thing you can do is to learn how to avoid them

Honestly, they’re likely to be travel scams everywhere you travel to and the only thing you can do is to be aware of them beforehand and know how best you can avoid them.

20. Always distribute your cash in different areas

This travel tip will save you from walking hundreds of kilometers back to your hotel. It is always prudent to prepare for the worst when traveling so distribute your money in different places so that if in an unfortunate incident you get pickpocketed, you still have some more cash on you in other places.

Or to even up your game, you can purchase this anti-theft money belt from amazon. It is a good way of keeping money in places that even pickpockets cannot reach.

21. Smile and be kind but don’t be afraid to say NO if need be

A smile and kindness go a long way when traveling especially for the first time – and not just traveling but anywhere else.

And since you’ll be meeting a number of “strangers”, smiling and showing a sense of kindness will draw more people to you who are even likely to offer help if you need it.

Nevertheless, while you keep your cool and smile, don’t be afraid to say NO when someone starts harassing you in a certain way. In places like Cairo where sellers are aggressive, don’t hesitate to say no immediately and walk away.

first time traveler

22. Make copies of your travel documents and always note down the address of your hotel

I always do this when traveling and it’s not just a tip for first-time travelers but also seasoned travelers. Making copies of your travel documents will save you thousands of troubles in an unfortunate incident that you lose your original copies. In the same way, having your hotel location can be very helpful.

23. Take more than one credit/debit card

Traveling is really all about being prepared and taking caution at all times and the best way to ensure that you’re financially secured is by carrying more than one credit/debit card.

In case you lose one, you can still use another one. And although it’s uncommon, if one card can’t be accepted at a particular ATM machine for whatever reason, you’ll still have something to fall back to.

24. Don’t expect places to look exactly as they looked like in photos on Instagram

Have you ever come across photos of your country on the internet and wonder whether they actually took the photo from a different place? There are chances that it could be the same for other destinations too.

Photos are sometimes gonna be different according to the lighting, zoom, and so many other photo editing techniques. So don’t be astonished if a popular place looks slightly different compared to the photos you’ve seen making rounds of Instagram. Reality can’t be edited but photos can.

To give you an example, the “Gates of Heaven ” in Bali, Indonesia is so different in real life compared to how photos portray it.

In most photos, you’ll see a reflection of the gate on the water – to make it look like there is water on the ground but in reality, there is no water at all.

However, even though some popular sites are exaggerated in photos, some others are totally underrated. Like the Victoria falls in Zimbabwe, there is no photo that can really show how magnificent the falls are.

25. Carry emergency cash

I know I’ve talked a lot about money issues in this post but it’s because money is one of those factors that can make your trip memorable or disastrous.

If your budget for the entire trip is around $3000, carry an extra $500-$1000 for emergencies and use it only and only in cases of emergencies.

26. Look for ways to save money while traveling

Except if you’re a “rich kid” that doesn’t care about how much you spend on what, its important to find ways you can save some bucks.

Whether it is cutting out eating at expensive restaurants or sleeping at fancy hotels, any money saved can help even increase the time you can travel for in that country.

You can find other ways to save money while traveling from this post. Trust me, any money saved is always important- but you already knew that!

travel tips for international first time travelers

27. Don’t be afraid to splurge a bit especially when it comes to once in a lifetime experiences

It might be shocking that I am just from giving you tips for traveling on a budget and now am talking about splurging.

Trust me, some things require a bit of splurging especially for once in a lifetime adventures. If you had an activity on your bucket list for so long, don’t feel bad going a little above your budget to do it- for all we know, another opportunity to go back to that particular place might not present itself again.

Related: Common mistakes to avoid while traveling

28. Public transportation is the cheapest way to travel around (in most cases).

Whether you’re traveling to India, Paris, Istanbul or any other place in the world, public transportation is the cheapest way to get around especially in big cities.

So if you want to travel cheaply, public transportation is the way to go. Even though it might not be as comfortable as private transportation in some places, it will save you a couple of bucks and you’ll experience the life of the locals even more.

29. Travel the way you want and not how everyone else tells you because honestly, everyone travels differently.

When it comes to traveling, everyone has their own style. Some are slow travelers (staying longer in places before moving onto the next one), some prefer tackling a number of destinations in a few days, some travel solo, others in groups. Not everything is gonna suit you as an individual.

So before you choose to take on other people’s traveling styles, make sure they suit your personal needs. Travel the way you’re comfortable with not what others suggest because we all have things we are comfortable with and they might be different from others’.

30. Try the local food of the country you travel to

What is traveling to a new destination without trying out their local food? So try as much as you can to taste the local dishes of the places you travel to after all food is an extremely important aspect when it comes to learning the traditions of the country.

Even though it might look and taste different from your native food, it’s worth giving it a shot to see what the locals crave.

31. Stay in contact with your family and friends back home.

I understand that there are some people that just want to disconnect from their home when they travel but as a first-time traveler, it’s important to stay connected with them and keep them updated on your whereabouts so that in case of emergencies, they know where to start from.

32. Get a universal travel adapter. Don’t buy a new one for each country you visit

First-time travelers always make a mistake of wanting to buy a different travel adapter for each country they plan to visit. But no, it shouldn’t be done like this – this is extremely costly and not practical when it comes to packing since you want to pack as light as possible.

So what you need to do is to buy a universal travel adapter that works everywhere around the world whether Europe, Asia, Africa or America. This universal travel adapter is what I recommend before you go for your first international trip.

travel tips international

33. A first aid kit goes a long way, make sure you don’t forget it.

The sad reality is that accidents can happen but to make sure you’re prepared for simple and minor accidents, don’t leave behind a first aid kit.

Whether it is to stop bleeding, prevent infections when you get a cut, you’ll be happy you took this first aid kit.

34. Ask for help when you need it

As a first time traveler, you’re likely to find yourself needing help whether its direction or how to do certain things.

Regardless of whatever it might be, request for help and I assure you, you’ll be able to find someone kind enough to help out.

35. Have fun but know your limits.

This applies especially to young people who want to party, drink and have fun in their youthful years. There is totally nothing wrong about wanting to live your best life but know exactly where to stop especially when it comes to drinking.

Don’t get so drunk that you reach a point of throwing up everywhere or blacking out. Know your limits and try not to cross them in the name of having fun.

Related post: Things to know before staying in a Hostel for the first time

36. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes while traveling because that’s how you learn

37. Do not flash around your expensive items around

tips for first time traveling abroad

38. Get familiar with the “break the ice questions”

As you travel, you’re more likely to keep getting questions like where are you from, where are you traveling to next, or which countries have you traveled to so far.

Do not get tired of them as they are a good way of starting a conversation with other travelers.

39. Food poisoning and diarrhea are common when traveling

Food poisoning and diarrhea are common especially when traveling to new places with totally different dishes. So wish your stomach good luck and enjoy the ride.

40. Break out of the shell and interact with other travelers.

This will help you make new friends as you travel or even find other travels whom you may end up traveling with.

If it’s your first time traveling abroad, I hope these general International travel tips gave you an idea of what to expect, what to do and generally how to behave in order to have the best first trip of your life.

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